Exclamation Point: This article points at some intriguing ways in which the term revolution applies differently to literature and science (although, in both senses, the word applies). As Snow writes “literature changes more slowly than science. It hasn’t the same automatic corrective…” (Snow 8), he touches on a crucial difference between revolutions in these disciplines. Much of unit two’s work focused on paradigm shifts and the ways in which scientific revolutions occurred upon discovering a new relationship or disavowing a previously understood reality. Yet empirical evidence or at least objective, repeatable experimentation serves as the underlying commonality within all scientific revolution. Science lends itself to concepts that prove themselves without a shadow of a doubt: in discussions of truth, it remains unquestionable that objects accelerate due to gravity at 9.8m/s/s (a scalar value, some small margin of error). Nonetheless, literature does not offer itself up to objectivity that easily. While literary movements evolve, they do so as a reflection of the culture and world from which they come. Literature does not have a “right answer” and a “one size fits all” movement of literature does not exist. Scientific discoveries and literary movements do not develop as mutually exclusive phenomena. For example, renaissance literature and its increased emphasis on the individual and free stemmed in part from the scientific and technological advancements that increased social mobility and broke down previously cemented divides between aristocracy and peasants. Nonetheless, literature reflects more than science, and its statements on the people about which it reports indicate an inherent imperfection. Literature can begin to expose the world, but it only reveals a certain part of the collective narrative and always with holes. As such, a literary revolution occurs when more of this narrative comes to light.
Question Mark: Throughout his work, C.S. Snow frequently criticizes the British “fanatical belief in educational specialisation” (Snow 17). Despite the attacks on their current model, he does not propose a concrete plan for something new. Would Snow advocate for Davidson College’s Liberal Arts approach, particularly the distribution requirements? While majors certainly provide specialization for liberal arts students, this model of education still emphasizes exploration and intellectual curiosity. Snow repeatedly suggests that not enough intellectual curiosity exists among literary and scientific scholars about the other field. Nonetheless, he also criticizes the American system for its lack of rigor (Snow 18). Although Davidson would certainly not have room for much criticism about its rigor (please do not take my use of this evidence as a request for more homework. It’s not that), this point does underscore the reality that, the wider a net of knowledge spreads, the later advanced specialization comes. Notwithstanding, I think Snow asks an important question of what role specialization can serve if those outside of the respective field of experts cannot understand the findings?
Points of Familiarity:
Theories: game theory, oxygen theory of combustion, plate tectonics, general relativity, quantum theory, evolution by natural selection, heliocentrism
Experiments: “Eratosthenes measures the earth”, “Gregor Mendel cultivates genetics”, “Isaac Newton eyes optics”, “Ivan Pacloc salivates at the idea”, “Robert Millikan gets a charge”